Triathlons are too easy. That’s the view of a rugged new brand of athletes called adventure racers. Nearly 150 men and women spent the first week of December 1998 braving New Zealand’s Southern Traverse competition: five days and 256 miles (412 kilometers) of bushwhacking, 42>> biking, 85>> kayaking, 01>> and rapelling. Armed only with sketchy directions, compasses, and their wits, they tried to navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint, 22 in all.

For a firsthand view, National Geographic EXPLORER host Boyd Matson joined a five-person New Zealand team called Macpac Geographic. 81>> He, they, and a crew of athlete-videographers shared grueling days and grinding aches. Day one was hard, day two was harder.

Then came day three. Stamina drained by navigational errors, fatigue, and relentless rain, Macpac Geographic reached a heartrending realization: We aren’t going to make the finish line.

This left the TV crew wondering what to do next. It was too late for a detailed focus on one of the 41 other teams. The solution: shoot everything imaginable, include action shots of the 14 teams that endured the entire course.

While videographers captured the race, I snatched glimpses of life in the world of TV documentaries—and, infected with Kiwi enthusiasm, jumped off a bridge. 08>>

Peter Winkler


© 1999 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.


Phone Call
From the Field:
Peter Winkler



Peter Takes the Plunge

Photograph 08 by
A.J. Hackett Bungy

Other photographs by
Peter Winkler